The forthcoming US peace plan will not be based on “fictions of international consensus” or on international law, the Trump administration’s Middle East peace envoy Jason Greenblatt said Tuesday.
Greenblatt also said that while the Palestinians may aspire to a capital in Jerusalem, they do not have a right to one. “It is true that the PLO and the Palestinian Authority continue to assert that East Jerusalem must be a capital for the Palestinians,” Greenblatt said. “But let’s remember, an aspiration is not a right.”
Addressing the United Nations Security Council, Greenblatt flatly rejected the notion that international law must serve as the foundation of any future peace deal, arguing that the two sides differ in their interpretation of it.
Likewise, a final-status treaty cannot be based on past UN resolutions that are “vague” and have failed to produce a result until today, the Trump envoy maintained.
“International consensus is not international law. So let’s stop kidding ourselves,” he said, speaking at the Security Council’s regularly scheduled session on the “situation in the Middle East.”
“If a so-called international consensus had been able to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it would have done so decades ago. It didn’t.”
Greenblatt also dismissed statements about an international consensus on the status of Jerusalem, saying that no resolution will ever get the US to deny that the city will forever be Israel’s capital.
He further noted that Israel has “already conceded” more than three-quarters of the territory it captured in the 1967 Six Day War, referring to the Israeli pullouts from the Sinai Peninsula and Gaza Strip.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict will not be resolved by references to international law, which is “inconclusive,” Greenblatt went on.
“We have all heard cogent arguments claiming international law says one thing or another about this or that aspect of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Some of those arguments are persuasive, at least to certain audiences. But none of them are conclusive,” he said.
It is impossible to determine whose interpretation of international law is correct, he argued.
“There is no judge, jury, or court in the world that the parties involved have agreed to give jurisdiction in order to decide whose interpretations are correct.”
Greenblatt made the remarks only minutes after UN Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo invoked international law and UN resolutions in her briefing to the council.
“We must work together to bring Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table in order to resolve the conflict on the basis of international law, relevant UN resolutions and previous agreements,” she said.
One could either argue endlessly about the law and prolong the suffering of the people in the region, Greenblatt said, or “acknowledge the futility” of such an approach.
“This conflict will not be resolved by constantly referencing the hundreds of UN resolutions on the issue. The constant reference to these heavily negotiated, purposely ambiguously worded resolutions is nothing more than a cloak to avoid substantive debate about the realities on the ground and the complexity of the conflict.”
The same is true for the status of Jerusalem, Greenblatt said.
“There is no international consensus about Jerusalem. And, no international consensus or interpretation of international law will persuade the United States or Israel that a city in which Jews have lived and worshipped for nearly 3,000 years and has been the capital of the Jewish State for 70 years, is not — today and forever — the capital of Israel.”
On December 6, 2017, US President Donald Trump became the first world leader to formally recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, though he stressed the administration was not taking a position on the city’s boundaries.
Greenblatt stressed that his statement should not be seen as revealing a position on the city’s future, noting that the Palestinians can of course wish to have a capital in East Jerusalem, “with creative solutions that attempt to respect all three religions that cherish this incredible city.”
In his speech, Greenblatt railed against Hamas and pointed out that the inner-Palestinian schism between the terrorist group that runs the Gaza Strip and the Palestinian Authority needs to be resolved.
He also criticized those who call Israel’s hold on the West Bank an “illegal occupation” and “weaponize” that term to demonize the Jewish state.
He hailed Israel for “heroically” defending itself against attacks during the Six Day War.
“Let us not lose sight of the fact that Israel has already conceded at least 88% of the territory captured by Israel in the defensive war it had no choice but to fight in 1967,” he said.
Israel returned the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt ahead of the 1979 peace agreement, and unilaterally withdrew from Gaza in 2005.
Palestinian Ambassador Riyad Mansour said last month’s Bahrain economic conference “neglected to even minimally acknowledge the root causes of this conflict” and said no amount of economic help would persuade the Palestinians to back off their demands for independence.
“All those who come to the Security Council convince us that what we are doing does not make sense and that they have the magic formula … they are not going to succeed,” Mansour said.
Several council members emphasized the importance of UN resolutions during Tuesday’s meeting.
British representative Karen Pierce said all countries “have a responsibility” to implement them, while German ambassador Christoph Heusgen reiterated his country’s commitment to a negotiated two-state solution based on the internationally agreed parameters “as the only viable solution” to the conflict.
Greenblatt said a solution “cannot be forced on the parties.”
“Let’s be honest with ourselves, and the parties, and the region, that the only way ahead is direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians,” he added.